Or, "Sunshine on a sprainy day".
This post is probably going to contain a lot of snowboarding, and not much Japan.
I went boarding again yesterday. It all started so well. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and I had no accompanying n00bs to impede my progress. The snow was a little firmer than I would have liked, but that's no biggie. I soon set a new speed record for the season of 67km/h, then took it up a notch to 72 clicks.
However, my fortune was about to take a turn for the worse. Like Icarus soaring ever closer to the sun, my hubris was to cost me dear.
The first incident wasn't so bad; merely a foreshadowing of the world of pain I was about to enter into. I was doing a spot of tentative freestyling in one of Zao's three parks. One particular feature they had was a kind of tabletop with a metal barrel on top of it for bonks, jibs, plants, etc. (For the uninitiated, I am not making up snowboarding jargon, tempting though it is to do so.) I avoided the barrel - I'm not insane - instead coming off the approach ramp at an oblique angle. The trouble with this was that there was no slope to ease my landing. Even though I must have only got four or five feet into the air, I landed on the flat surface with my legs rather too straight, sending a jarring jolt up my spine. Best not do that again, I mentally chastised myself.
Later, in park two of three, I tried a boardslide on a box (that is, riding along a fairly wide raised platform with my board perpendicular to my direction of motion). I used to be able to do this, but I seem to have lost the ability. To pull it off, you have to put your weight much further forward than you ever would on snow. If you lean back, the board slips out from under you on the low-friction surface and you land on your arse. Typically, the momentum carries you off the end of the box and you reprise your derriere impact on the snow. This is precisely what happened to me, and it was painful enough to make me decide it was time to have a karee raisu for lunch and attempt to regroup.
After lunch, I decided to leave the parks alone. I was zipping along a run that would probably be a fairly fast blue in the European system, probably going at something in the region of 55km/h (35mph). At that kind of speed, you really don't want to fall. But that's what I did. I'm not quite sure what happened, but before I knew it I was tumbling head over board, trying to get into a foetal position so as not to snap any protruding limbs. I largely succeeded in this regard, but the nose of my board dug into the snow, putting rather a lot of force onto my left ankle. As I got up, much to the relief of concerned-looking onlookers, it was my ankle that hurt the most.
I took a long break with a can of Royal Milk Tea (a diabetes-inducingly sweet 'British style' tea that I'm sure Anisha would enjoy) bought from one of the slope-side vending machines. My ankle hurt, but I reckoned I was ok to keep riding, and besides I had to if I wanted to get back to the car.
So, I continued, taking it a little easier. Zao is blessed with a lot of steep banks at the sides of its pistes, making something approaching a natural quarter-pipe in places. I very much enjoy building up some speed and then carving up these at a steep angle, performing a 180 at the apex, and then dropping back into the piste. When I'm feeling less adventurous, as I now was, it's fun just to ride up onto to the bank in a big lazy arc. This is what I did, with my drop-in taking me through a patch of little twigs sticking up out of the snow. One can usually get away with riding straight over little plants without incident, but it's always hard to judge just what flora is going to present significant resistance. On this occasion, I had underestimated the little shrubs' resilience, and the sudden deceleration sent me straight into a vicious faceplant, rather like putting a stick through the spokes of a bicycle. As I sat at the side of the piste, spitting blood from my cut lip, I realised that this was getting silly. Snowboarding was becoming little more than an expensive and elaborate form of self harm for me.
My ankle was getting no better. I was realising that it was one of those injuries that is acutely painful, then is reduced to a dull ache by adrenaline, but gradually comes back, progressively limiting one's mobility. Due to my profound grippiness, it really pains me to leave a ski resort while it's still open. I also have a slightly masochistic obsession with 'getting back on the horse', i.e. if you suffer a painful injury you have to go back and do whatever it is you were doing again, so that you won't develop a fear of it. But sense eventually won out, and I threw in the towel at around quarter to three.
Fortunately I ride regular and drive an automatic, so my ankle did not restrict my driving ability. By the time I got home, it had seized up so much that I was loudly grunting with pain as I tried to take my boots off. I prescribed myself a hot bath, painkillers (oral) and whisky to take the edge off it.
At school today I was limping around like Gregory House MD. Eventually someone who I'm assuming was the school nurse took pity on me, and administered a cold compress. She advised me to see a doctor. Being male I have a natural aversion to this suggestion, but the fact that I neither know where a doctor is nor how to communicate with the hypothetical physician means it's really not going to happen.
So, for the second time in a month, I'm hobbling around like an old man. I'm not sure what my problem is. Maybe I'm just getting old; perhaps my haggard 27-year-old frame can't take this kind of punishment any more. Or maybe it's because I'm used to having my X-treme ambitions checked by the crappy weather, sketchy snow conditions or heinous overcrowding of Cairngorm. Long, quiet, visible, sunny slopes may be like sirens beckoning me to the rocks of epic bail, to overuse Ancient Greek metaphors. Or it could be bad karma for being an antisocial ponce; I could possibly do with some boarding companions to slow me down. Anyway you look at it, I think I need to be a little more careful on my board from now on.